The line between living and dying as a result of a substance use disorder is as thin as one generation in my family.
I used to wonder why my mother, who died at the young age of 32, was unable to sustain recovery from her illness while I have been able to do so and in turn have lived. I spent years going through the gauntlet of thinking maybe it’s luck, God, good fortune, motivation, her lack of motivation, her not “wanting” it bad enough, karma, me working harder, etc.
What I have learned in my journey is this:
Recovery is not about any single one of those things. Recovery is instead something that can absolutely be manufactured by making the right ingredients available for people who need them at the right time. It is about having what it is we need, when we need it. I was fortunate enough to have had access and continued access to what it was I needed, when I needed it.
It’s time to get rid of the myths and look at what we know.
People do not need to hit “rock bottom” in order to recover. There isn’t just one way to recover. There isn’t one approach that should work for everybody. People need access to treatment and support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week because substance use disorder and recovery is not a 9-to-5 operation. Medicated assisted treatment works for many people. Families should be included in the recovery process. Naloxone saves lives. We know these things.
The tricky part for me is no longer trying to figure out why some recover while others do not. The tricky part for me lies in the ingredients and the timing – how do we begin to ensure that everybody who needs it gets their own individualized mixture of ingredients at precisely whenever the right time is for them?
For me, this is where I see hope. Not the sort of hope we find in blind faith or in wishful thinking. Not the sort of hope we hold onto when we don’t know where to turn. It’s the kind of hope we have when we see a solution on the horizon. If we know that recovery is possible, and if we know many of the ingredients that help people recover, and if we know that we need to make them readily available – well, then we know the solution.
Now all we have to do is make it happen.
I don’t know what specific ingredients my mother needed, all I know is that she didn’t have them when she needed them. Now, instead of thinking about why she died while I lived, I think about how our combined experience can be used to help make recovery available to all.
On this International Overdose Awareness Day, I think of my mother. As we march into Recovery Month, I also think about the solutions that we have, and how the time is now to allow everybody access to them.